Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Yes, I hang laundry on a clothesline May 3, 2017

Vintage tablecloths, clothes and towels hang on my backyard clothesline in this November 2009 photo.


Clothespins? Who uses a clothes line anymore?

Minnesota Public Radio writer Bob Collins posed that question yesterday in a NewsCut column about a Cloquet matchstick and toothpick manufacturer that is closing. The plant also made wooden clothespins at one time.


I hang laundry out in all seasons. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2014.


My immediate reaction to Bob’s question was to raise my hand high. I am a devoted user of an outdoor clothesline and a drying rack, when Minnesota weather necessitates indoor usage. Several readers commented on Bob’s column that they use clothespins. For laundry and for clipping shut snack bags.

Why do I hang laundry on the line when I could just throw everything into the dryer?


Snow does not stop me from hanging laundry outside. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo March 2015.


I enjoy hanging wash on the line. Yes, even in the winter, if the sun is shining bright and the patio (where my clothesline is stretched) is cleared of snow and ice.


The clothespins I use are weathered from years of exposure to the elements. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


There’s something comforting about the rhythm of clipping wet clothing, sheets and towels to the line. Grab two or more clothespins, choose a piece of damp laundry, then clip. Grab, choose, clip. Grab, choose, clip.


Laundry on my clothesline. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


There’s a certain pleasure in slowing down, in ignoring the busyness of life to do this simple act of hanging out the laundry. I’ve learned to appreciate the crispness of the morning air, the sharpness of a cardinal’s trill, the nuances of a breaking day. And I’ve learned, too, to appreciate more the warmth of my home as I step back inside, fingers stiff from hanging out laundry in 30-some degree temps.


In my opinion, nothing beats line-dried laundry. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


When I hang laundry, I am, in those minutes, free of life’s worries, calmed by simply being outdoors, separated from stressors, focused solely on the methodical and therapeutic task at hand. By habit I hang the heaviest items, such as socks and jeans, in the full morning sun for maximum drying exposure.


Laundry drapes over a chain link fence on a balcony along Third Street N.E. in downtown Faribault, just across the alley from the post office. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo July 2015.


Hanging laundry outside offers the benefit also of fabric that smells of the outdoors—of sunshine and fresh air woven within the fibers. There’s the satisfaction, too, of saving money via solar power.


Monday wash day in the Amish community of Eden Hollow, Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.


Who uses a clothes line anymore?


I cannot imagine so many grasshoppers that they obliterated everything, including clothing hung out to dry. I photographed this info at a Minnesota Historical Society exhibit on disasters in April 2016 at the Steele County History Center in Owatonna.


I do. And I have no intention of discontinuing that practice any time soon…unless Minnesota experiences another Grasshopper Plague.

TELL ME: Do you hang laundry outdoors? If yes, why?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


52 Responses to “Yes, I hang laundry on a clothesline”

  1. Ken Huiras Says:

    Nothing beats the smell of fresh sheets and pj’s that have been hung outside to dry. A person just sleeps better. Some cities in metro have banned outside clothes lines. These people have no idea what they are missing.

  2. Me!! I do – both indoor and outdoor and one under the verandah for rainy or gale force wind summer days – and my clothes last for years – but I have to say it is hard to get good quality clothes pegs any more – this years ones are just flying apart – any links to good pins (we call them pegs in NZ) .. c

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    I used to hang laundry outside but just do the occasional draping over deck chairs or hanging a few hangers off of the back of chairs now due to “rules”. I know a lot of folks could absolutely not live someplace where the rules dictated no clotheslines like the past 2 places I have lived but I don’t let it ruin my life. 🙂 I embrace it and enjoy the clear views and the few items that have that fresh outdoor smell that I do put out. And the upside–no bird presents on my clean laundry like I used to get. Trees = birds = droppings. Gotta look at things half full, right? 🙂 But YOUR clotheslines look lovely and inviting.

  4. bev walker Says:

    I still hang the laundry out for the very same reasons you do. I don’t hang it out in winter unless it is a mild day.

  5. Jenny Says:

    Yes! Nothing is better than sheets that have been dried on the line. When we visited China and Japan a few years ago, they don’t even use dryers…they hang everything on their balconies or on racks in their laundry areas.

  6. I won’t leave you hanging…no I don’t hang my wash outside. not allowed by our HOA rules, but not sure if I would any.ways. Maybe I would dry my sheets outside-I loved that sunshiney aroma. My mom hung some of our clothes outside. When my grandmother died, my mom had her wringer washer brought to our basement and she used that, too. We teased her about it. Thanks for a warm post

  7. Jackie Says:

    Another thing you and I share a love of, and yes I think it’s a love. There is a peace in hanging out clothes that you cannot know unless you do it. I was lucky to have a husband who KNOWS my love… neither of our houses had clothes line poles, so for both houses Rick went to the scrap-yard, picked out two sturdy iron poles, cleaned them up painted them, and cemented them in. They are permanent structures, with my childrens handprints in the cement. This morning I was at the clothesline hanging out the sheets, I can hardly wait to crawl under those covers tonight.

  8. Wãshē Kōdä Says:

    I had the choice of a dryer or an air conditioner on the 30 amp circuit… I opted for the AC !
    80° the clothes take an hour or so, 5° they take 4 or 5 hours. (ice evaporates)
    One end is anchored to the house & the other is attached 6½ feet up on my 16 foot ‘hawk pole’. ( just under the Wren house)
    Other then a purple streak on my bed linen from the birds berry season I prefer line drying here in N.E. Tennessee 🙂

  9. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    There is NOTHING like sleeping on clean bedding that has dried outside in a breeze. Not only is it cozy and comforting but it stirs memories of overnight visits to my grandparents old farm house

  10. Almost Iowa Says:

    I always used to hang my clothes out to dry. They smell fresher that way – but then we moved to Almost Iowa, where the water is harder than concrete. Anything hung on the line turns into limestone. I think the dryer breaks the water into pebbles and blow it out the vent.

  11. Michelle OLaughlin Says:

    I love to hang my clothes on the line! Started as a child in MN and continue now in CO, where the sunny and very dry weather does the job super-fast.

  12. valeriebollinger Says:

    Fun to read the comments…I hang sheets out on our retractable line in the summer, jeans on the deck chairs, and larger items on the line when called for, but that’s it. Good for you for hanging clothes out all year ’round. I’m impressed.
    I wonder how many kids these days know the smell of sheets hung outdoors? The smell is delicious and unforgettable. I agree, it helps you sleep.

  13. I do! We didn’t have a dryer all last summer until we could afford a new one. Now, I’m excited to hang laundry back out on the line this summer again!

  14. treadlemusic Says:

    Those vintage 50s cloths (1st photo) are gorgeous!!!!!!!

  15. Littlesundog Says:

    We have a retractable clothesline and I use it weekly. I love hanging sheets out especially. The breeze does tend to “snap” everything so it looks as if it’s been ironed. I have had some problems though, with deer hoofing at bed sheets. Daisy did it and now Emma seems intrigued.

  16. Susan Ready Says:

    Okay are the Amish giants? Who could reach that high to even hang the wash? This comes from a short person. I once wrote a poem titled clothesline 🙂
    I will send it to you. Hanging clothes outside is great and you seldom see it anymore-guess too much effort for most.

  17. I love the photos! And I always think of you when I think of hanging laundry.

  18. melirey96 Says:

    I do as well. I do not own a washer or dryer. But I can tell you this. Two reasons why I do is. 1 it saves me money and 2 my clothes last longer. They don’t fade or shrink like it would when they are constantly put in the dryer. I have learned that the hard way over the years. Now that I have a private yard I can enjoy and appreciate every morning sunshine, the sounds of the birds singing up in the trees and see the squirrels run past me on the fence as I hang my clothes to dry on the line.

  19. Well, I don’t hang laundry out on the line anymore, but I had to when I was a child, and that was bizarre within itself. We lived in a well lawn manicured, cadillac in every garage, subdivision. My mother, the only mother had a clothes line in the back yard, and the washer and dryer, came with the newly constructed house when we moved in. I thought I was on “easy street”. “Oh no”, my mother said. “we will continue to hang the laundry outside. There is nothing like the smell of sun dried laundry” At this moment, and every moment that I had to hang laundry out, cold weather, hot weather, weather that predicted it might rain later, I thought about my “Mother”. ” If you like the smell of fresh, sun dried laundry, then why are you not out here hanging this stuff out?'” I said I thought it, proof that I never said it is in the fact that I am living today. Needless to say, my friends asked me constantly why we had a “clothesline” in the back yard, and some of their mothers looked at me as though I was abused. Needless to say, when I moved out, THE FIRST THING I purchased was a Dryer, and then a Washer. Not me, and if I had asked my daughter to hang clothes out on a line, she would have passed out.

  20. Morpheus Zzz Says:

    I think being able to hang laundry up outside and have them end up soft and pliable (and smelling so fresh) is the ONLY good thing about all the wind in the Midwest! 🙂

  21. Bethany Says:

    I hang my clothes out as much as I can. I typically don’t in the winter, but I do have lines downstairs in my basement. I love the money it saves, but it also gives me a few minutes to myself. I listen to podcasts while hanging clothes!

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